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The city will prohibit some residents from moving into a building designed by Robert Scarano if Brooklyn’s bad-boy architect does not bring their units up to code.
Following The Brooklyn Papers’ front-page story on Scarano’s latest design troubles, the Department of Buildings said it would block buyers from moving into several apartments in “the Washington,” a new seven-floor, 45-unit Prospect Heights building, unless Scarano rebuilds their flimsy plywood mezzanines with permanent materials.
Scarano installed such wood platforms in many of the building’s bedrooms to shave off excess usable square footage.
The move did get Scarano around current zoning laws, but the shoddy construction did not get him past the building code, which requires steel and concrete constructions.
“The mezzanines do not comply with the department’s requirements,” said Jennifer Givner, a Buildings spokeswoman.
Some speculated that Scarano’s use of plywood was intentional, allowing future co-op owners to easily tear it out once the sales were complete and the Buildings Department had granted the required “certificate of occupancy.”
But Scarano took issue with the notion that this was “some kind of grandiose scheme to defraud.”
“The work [on the mezzanines] wasn’t completed,” said Scarano. “Now there’s concrete.”
Givner, the Buildings spokeswoman, did say the department may allow tenants to occupy apartments that do not have the “Scaranozines.” But, that angered some would-be buyers, who said the action would penalize buyers, not Scarano.
“Now people will be forced to close on their apartments or lose their deposits, without knowing if the building [is entirely up to code],” said one prospective buyer, who didn’t want to be named.
“The best thing would be if no [one was allowed to occupy the building] until everything is in compliance.”
Scarano isn’t entirely unsympathetic to their plight, calling his mezzanine modifications “unfortunate for the buyers,” but he did point out that only one of the mezzanine apartments actually has a buyer at this point.
“The rest have been pulled off market,” said Scarano.
Scarano, who calls himself the architect of “New Brooklyn,” has completed 75 buildings in Brooklyn and 400 citywide. Another 200 are in the works.
He argues that his work has paved the way for the transformation of countless neighborhoods, including the Washington’s Prospect Heights.
“That building pretty much cemented the neighborhood in terms of its jumpstart,” said Scarano.
But his pioneering instincts haven’t saved him from run-ins with the Buildings Department.
Earlier this year, he agreed to surrender the right to certify his own designs on the grounds that he misrepresented some building plans.
City Councilwoman Letitia James, who’s been involved in the latest brouhaha, thinks these most recent developments should be the last straw.
“Scarano needs to be brought up on disciplinary charges,” said James (D-Prospect Heights). “He does shoddy work. He overbuilds.”
“The only solution as far as I’m concerned is to revoke his license.”
©2006 Community Newspaper Group
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